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ECHOES of SILENCE

One Planet. One People. Peace. Justice. Beauty.

http://echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com

 

1.  Thanks for the Chocolates, Guys; now, How about a Planet for the Kids?

    Paul Baker Hernández; May 2011

 

(This article was originally written for UK/US Mother's Day 2011. However, since Mother's Day is celebrated virtually all year round [February, Norway] to [December, Indonesia], and since consumerism has developed a plethora of 'special days' to control the year to squeeze maximum profit and distraction from the hapless 'consumer', it now offers seminal ideas that underpin the Echoes of Silence 'Take Back the Day...s' movement.)

   

Can we really be stupid enough to sell ourselves pre-faded, pre-torn, jeans? Well, whether or not, there they are, gracing students and barrio kids, housewives and hubbies, TV presenters and even good old Uncle Tom Cobbley. 'It's fashion,' we tell ourselves. Oh, of course; so that's all right then.

Fashion?! 'Marketing', pure and simple. And pretty old hat marketing at that: even the dark ages 1980s boasted a 'product' to ‘rub on jeans, especially on the seat and knees for authenticity’(!)'. The ad even admitted, 'jeans pre-faded and tattered by stone washing may cost a little more [try twice as much], but time is money. And getting those pristine denims fashionably faded would otherwise take maybe years of hard work.' Ayyyyy! And the disembowelled pumice mountains? The rivers of contaminated water? Any speck of genuine individuality? The creative lives wasted advertising/lying? The whole battered planet, for pity's sake?!!! Stonewashed suckers, it seems we really can persuade ourselves to do anything - if we put our minds, peer pressure, and the occasional ‘celebrity’ seriously to it. No matter the true cost to ourselves, the universe and everything.

 

Jeans are bad enough, heaven knows, but here comes US 'Mother’s Day' (May 8th), surely the ultimate in tacky, hypocritical, consumerism. Drenched in syrupy conformism, who'd ever have guessed it was founded as an anguished cry for peace in the aftermath of the cataclysmic US Civil War. Look around: if ever there was a time to recapture that original inspiration, this surely is it. So: Take back the Day! For although we so often feel tiny and helpless, there are literally millions of us all over the world working constantly to challenge warmongering and the ravaging of the Earth. This year, then, to truly celebrate our mothers and the life they give us, there's a creative, effective way to come together to help build that peace-filled, human and humane new world order we all long for so: to join the 'Put Peace Back into Mother's Day' Movement. Hardly in the same cool league as pumicing one’s pants of course, but it's a dream that still might just be worth dreaming at this moderately critical juncture of human - planetary – life: to recapture the spirit of the original mother's day. For who would have guessed, wading through Hallmark, Interflora and Victoria’s Secret, that the first Mother’s Day really did have peace – and, to achieve peace, women - at its very heart? In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, a prominent anti-slavery and women's rights worker in New England, appalled by the carnage of the recent Civil War (and the ongoing slaughter of the Franco-Prussian conflict), cried out to women and mothers on both sides, and indeed everywhere:

 

Arise, then, women of this day! … Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’

 From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.' Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

 

As men have often forsaken the plough ... at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them first meet, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be held to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

 

(Julia Ward Howe, Proclamation, 1870)

 

No sentimental claptrap here; the first Mother’s Day actually treats women as adults, as men’s equals, as critical and necessary actors in history: it’s Mother’s Day for Peace, dammit! Our consumerist culture has been smothering this profoundly subversive legacy in treacle ever since – with frequent tragic success.

Here in Nicaragua, for example, we’re no longer content with a single Mother’s Day (May 30th), the whole month now oozes soggy tripe. A land of absent fathers and wayward men stinking with hypocrisy. People who can't afford food for their old folks and children brainwashed into buying yet more plastic crap, to 'honor' their desperate wives and mothers.

 

Perhaps the one positive thing the juvenile jeans and fatuous cards do tell us is that, if we can persuade ourselves to accept such absurd 'fashion' and gormless drivel, we can actually persuade ourselves to do anything. And that, therefore, since we do truly want to leave a planet for our children rather than a wasteland, we can indeed achieve the seemingly impossible. But to do so we have to get at least as serious as the stone-washers, the fashion dictators, the Hallmark versifiers. Making peace - truly honoring mothers - can no longer be confined to the occasional ‘Day’. If ever there was a dream to dream, a time to seize, a peace to imagine, this is it. The Earth and all our children beg women everywhere to stand up and cry out – Mom Day or Monday, today and every day: Thanks for the chocolates, guys; now, how about a planet for the kids?” And we men, properly to enable our own vital contribution, must seek out the women (and the children), not only with chocolates and flowers (Fair Trade, of course – FT frees millions of women and children from economic slavery) on the programmed Days that consumerism imposes on them, but all day, every day; must offer them genuine listening and respect; must try to grasp and act on their profound perspectives as primary life-givers/sustainers in the present and bearers of life into the future; must join them to redress the profound imbalance between female and male energies at every level, especially in political and economic life. After all, our self-styled 'Mother of Parliaments' has a shameful 20% women members while women are the majority population. No wonder war still stalks the planet. It may take two to tango, today our very survival depends on the whole of humanity learning to dance – to dream – together. And, in the dance, to delight in realizing just how wonderful our mothers – and Mother Earth - truly are.

 

And the flying pigs? In Boris Pasternak’s wonderful novel,‘Dr. Zhivago’, Zhivago and his family are heading for the Ural mountains in Central Russia, by train, in an overwhelming snowstorm. The train finally bogs down, everyone gets out to shovel, one group here, another further on, another up the hill … hopeless.

But suddenly,” exclaims Pasternak, “the walls of snow between the groups came down and they saw the line flying into the distance like an arrow. And, seeing their numbers for the first time, they were amazed how many they were.” That's us, folks. Now, how does the tango go again?

__________________________________________________________________

 

Mother's Day occurs from February (Norway) through December (Indonesia**), thus people from all sides of the one world – tragically divided but ultimately indivisible - can work together throughout the year, supporting one another on a rolling basis. For the sake of all our children - and especially that of Mother Earth herself. Join the Put Peace Back into Mother's Day movement. No matter where the particular 'Day' is geographically, the same key elements apply: mutual, global, support to promote local, national and international actions driven by the belief that the rush to war is primarily due to the radical imbalance between female and male energies, and to our male-dominated system's catastrophic abuse of the world's natural resources. Thus, the movement promotes:

a) Full acceptance and implementation of all rights of women, children, and of the Earth itself, locally and globally (e.g., proportional representation of women in the UN, governments, companies, NGOs, etc . [our self-styled “Mother of Parliaments”: only 20% women!])

b) Re-dedication of at least 1% of all monies, materiel – and especially personnel - currently committed to arms sales, weapons development and war throughout the world to providing every person on the planet with fresh water.

 

Without addressing these fundamentals, lasting peace remains a pipe dream. On the other hand, can you just imagine arms salespeople/soldiers taking a regular stint to join local people on water projects in Afghanistan? Or Nicaragua? Or in the neighborhoods of New York? or how such an adventure would transform scientists developing nuclear bombs? Take back the Day: We truly are many, all over the world. And the earth is our only home, not the sport of transnational corporations and corrupt leaders. Together, we can – we will – clear the line, weaving together the innumerable wonderfully creative initiatives already working all over the world into one profoundly human, and humane, society. Please join the 'Take Back the Day..s!!' movement to help hasten the day when we can at last honour our parents, our children, and all who gave their lives to end war  – truly.

Contact us on echoespaul@tortillaconsal or paulbaker2004@yahoo.com. Thank you.  

 

 

What to do?

 

 

 

 

1) Sign our 'Put Peace Back into Mother's (and Memorial) Day Petition' http://www.change.org/petitions/put-peace-back-into-mother's-day

 

and/or http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Put-PEACE-Back-into-Mother's-Day

 

 

 

2) Go get the (Fair Trade) chocolates and flowers.  Fair Trade frees countless mothers and children from economic slavery. Make some special cards//presents.  (Most communities have a Fair Trade store. Even some supermarkets sell some goods. Online Fair Trade: http://www.globalexchangestore.org - http://www.equalexchange.co.uk/buyfairtrade/index.asp - http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

 

 

 

3) 'SingalongaJohn': upload your video of you/your friends/the whole bus/carload, singing 'Imagine' along with John Lennon's to our special FaceBook page. Make it as imaginative as you like - here in Managua we're experimenting with massed naked kazoos. Http://www.facebook.com/pages/Take-Back-the-Day-Put-Peace-Back-into-Mother's-and-Memorial-Day/170595642999040

 

 

 

4) Sign on to Echoes of Silence's 'Declaration of Inter-Dependence': 'We the Peoples and People of this One Earth …. ((http.www.echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com)

 

 

 

5) Join us digging eco-drains in Nicaragua. Banish grey water puddles from impoverished homes with no waste disposal system; so improving family and especially children's health immeasurably and cutting the inflated profits of transnational drug companies. (a lot more fun than it sounds! Http://www.echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com)

 

 

 

6) Support the Put Peace Back movement by sending a donation (USA: via Echoes Fiscal Sponsor, PeaceWorks – www.PeaceWorks.org; UK: cheques to 'Christine Jennings' (memo 'Echoes'), Echoes of Silence, 3. Upper Regents Park, Bradford-on-Avon, BA15 6EB) and choose from a selection of musical delights: Echoes' coordinator, Paul Baker Hernandez, singing his Starbucks hit: “Frappuccino, Crappuccino!” or his ditto “Expletives-deleted Cellphone Song.” Also a unique recording of Victor Jara songs in original Spanish and beautiful English translations(MP3 download or mailed CD copy)

 

 

 

7) Send us your suggestions for developing the Take Back the Day! Movement. Write us at echoespaul@tortillaconsal.com .

 

 

 

8) Book a presentation for your local community, union, group, church or college during Paul's coming tours (UK October 2011; US March/April 2012. Write us at echoespaul@tortillaconsal.com. More information re content and availability, please see www.echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com

 

 

 

 9) Promote Put Peace back into Mother's (and Memorial) Day as widely as you can. Get it adopted by your faith community, general assembly, school, college, union, peace group, perform street theatre, engage local press, radio, TV. etc. For assistance, write us at: echoespaul@tortillaconsal.pbworks.com

 

 

 

Make 2011 a true year of celebration, building a peace-filled Earth - Mother's Day, Memorial Day, and every day.  Thank you.

 

______________________________

 

 

 

**We are convinced that the rush to war, the repression of women and the destruction of the planet all stem from the same root: the imbalance between female and male energies. (No, women are not intrinsically better than men; but, yes, it is a scandal - a disaster - that our self-styled 'Mother of Parliaments' has just 1/5th women members. To take but one frightful example.)  Unless and until we restore that balance, any dreams of a lasting peace and a healed planet remain just that.

 

 

Join the Put Peace Back into Mother's Day google group and help develop the movement: www.groups.google.com – search for: Put Peace Back into Mother's Day _________________________________________________________________________

 

** Indonesia: “Hari Ibu originated from the First All-Indonesia Women’s Congress, December 1928 in Jogjakarta. The meeting was considered as one of the most important historical moments in Indonesia's fight for independence from Dutch colonials, where representative leaders from 30 women’s movements across the nation were gathered to discuss women's active participation in politics and the national independence movement, women’s rights and justice, welfare, education, health programs, women’s protections and many other social issues.

 

UK/US Tours: Paul Baker Hernandez will be on tour in the UK in October/November, 2011, and in the US in March/April, 2012. Info/book: echoespaul@tortillaconsal.com or paulbaker2004@yahoo.com.

 

When not on tour with his creaky old ‘green guitar’, home-made from a table leg and a toilet seat while a Trappist monk, offering news, analysis and campaigns, singing the wonderful songs of Víctor Jara and/or original ditties about Starbucks and cellphones, Paul organizes service brigades to help dig eco-drains in Managua, Nicaragua; and assists wife Fátima del Rosario Hernández Chavarria in her work within the Nicaraguan Community Movement's health and education projects.

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________________ 

 

 

2. Blue-washing: the truth about Bottled Water.

posted by Mel, selected from Food & Water Watch Mar 22, 2010 7:01 am

 

For every liter of water that goes into a plastic bottle of water, two liters of water were used to make the plastic bottle and bottle the water. This eye-opening fact and others were published today in a new report from Food & Water Watch entitled, Why the Bottled Water Industry’s EcoFriendly Claims Don’t Hold Water.

In 1993, the United Nations established March 22 as World Water Day to focus on global water problems, but recently, the event has become hijacked by bottled water companies. The International Bottled Water Association in its press release titled World Water Day: Where Bottled Water Fits In said that “Bottled water is a healthy beverage that is produced by an industry with an outstanding tradition of environmental stewardship, protection and sustainability.” The American Beverage Association, with members such as The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Nestle Waters North America, said it “commends World Water Day and efforts to improve water resources and sanitation throughout the world.” Nestle Waters North America issued its own statement “Supporting World Water Day and Beyond.” These companies cite their donations to water charities or efforts to reduce the amount of water that they use in their production as evidence of the leadership role that they are playing in addressing the world water crisis. Yet these activities serve as a distraction from the water problems associated with the product—a prime example of corporate bluewashing.

Key Facts

  • Spring water used for bottled water comes from environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Groundwater pumping can cause water levels to decline both underground and in surrounding lakes, rivers and streams.
  • As long as water bottlers profit from water, they have no financial incentive to reduce their total water consumption.
  • Tap water has the lowest water footprint and the lowest carbon footprint of any beverage.
  • In 2007, bottled water production in the United States used the energy equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil—enough to fuel about 1.5 million cars for a year.
  • The manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, water extraction, bottling and distribution amounts to up to 2,000 times the energy cost of producing tap water.
  • In 2006, only one out of every four water bottles were recycled; at this rate, millions of tons of empty plastic bottles end up in landfills.
  • The distribution of bottled water uses energy and therefore contributes to climate change.

The bottled water industry’s attempts to sell itself as environmentally friendly cover up the real effects of the product and distract consumers from the most responsible source of water there is: the tap.

Many American consumers can see the truth behind the industry’s marketing tactics and are taking part in a nationwide movement to stop drinking bottled water. According to the College Sustainability Report Card, 23 college campuses had a disposable water bottle ban in effect as of February 2010. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in 2007 stating the importance of municipal water, and another resolution in 2008 encouraging mayors to phase out government use of bottled water. A growing number of municipalities have banned government spending on bottled water, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.

Event planners have begun hosting bottled water free events, and restaurants, starting in San Francisco, have stopped selling bottled water. As more and more people are turning their attention back to the tap, it is not enough to simply stop buying bottled water–the public must also invest in public water infrastructure so that tap water remains a safe, affordable source of environmentally sustainable drinking water. A federal Clean Water Trust Fund would accomplish this goal by providing a dedicated and steady source of funding for public water infrastructure that would allow municipalities and states to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to their water systems to ensure clean affordable water for all.

For a compendium of World Water Day information, please see Care2’s World Water Day page.

Food & Water Watch is an organization dedicated to the belief that the public should be able to count on our government to oversee and protect the quality and safety of food and water. For more information, go to www.foodandwaterwatch.org.

 

Stand up and See! 70 years of Song

 

Echoes Coordinator, Paul Baker Hernandez, ruminates on making 70, still with a good pair of lungs.

 

I was born singing, 70 years ago. Songs of struggle? Hardly. There were nightly Luftwaffe bombs, of course, but my own small WWII struggle was with bone tuberculosis, tied down immobile to prevent my spine snapping. Four eternal years later, the lovely nursing nuns set me free, an eight-year-old with a refurbished back, a crypto-Irish brogue and a lifelong interest in bondage (later heavily reinforced by the Jesuits’ brutal ferula and the Trappists’ vicious flagella!). In the school choir, “Land of Hope and Glory” and, “Soul of My Saviour” were much more to my conservative taste than, “The Red Flag”, and the primary struggle was to ignore the writing on the wall - increasingly neon – tolling the collapse of the British Empire.

In 1960 I took refuge in the eternal silences of a Carthusian hermit’s cell. At 20, that was me gone, seeking the narrow way sign-posted celestial ice cream and gold plates. The life was indeed gratifyingly strict (woken twice every night to praise the Lord, for heaven's[?] sake), but the food was unexpectedly delicious. Home made bread, fish, soup. Thus cheated of some suffering brownie points, I compensated by eating raw salt. The consequent throwing up led to the hurried throwing out (“over-enthusiastic!”) and from the wastes of solitude I found myself abruptly handed off to the entirely communal Cistercians, who served nothing but vegetables and counted every grain. These monks weren't against penance, not at all (vegetables!), they just preferred to do it in community. The weekly high point was whipping yourself with a diminutive cat-o’-nine-tails, every Friday, to ‘celebrate the Lord’s Passion’. Ouch!

Intriguingly, it was this quaint hangover from the days when monks really did things in style - iron spike belts, body lice, steamy temptations in the Sahara - that first began to undermine our ivory fortress. The fabled '60s: in Paris, students were ripping up cobblestones to make barricades; in the US, anti-Vietnam campaigners were sticking flowers in guns; and, in Nunraw Abbey, Scotland, we were suddenly flogging our beds instead of our backs, smothering our giggles any which way so as not to ‘break silence’.

 

Born thus in laughter, the revolution was well begun. Crucially, as our discontent mounted, my family smuggled in original Bob Dylan on a rare visit (perhaps why they were). “The Times They are a-Changin’” hit us like a wall. We had hysterics. So did Brother Oliver when he discovered us: we were supposed to be practising Gregorian Chant, after all. Luckily, God (locally disguised as the Abbot) dismissed us with a chuckled caution, ear plugs, and a studied quote from St. Augustine(!): “He who sings prays twice”. Hmm! Had the Lord never heard our raggle-taggle 'choir' in horrid song?!

At all events, it was certainly true that the monk who revolts rebels twice: once against the Abbot and once again against God unmasked. The whips were part of a whole system designed to help us abandon our own will, everywhere and in everything. The Abbot controlled how we knelt, how we drank our tea, how we crapped (well, if he could). His powers would've had any tin-pot dictator dancing in the aisles, for, although holy modesty prevented him from actually following us into the toilet, his punishments brought eternal spiritual death. So, in dumping the lash, we were playing with serious double fire. However, revolution was inevitable, for as we tried to bury our heads, the very sand was shifting under us. In the event, as we discovered real impoverishment, human rights and ecological devastation, we began to realise we supposedly Holy Joes were actually serving the Mammon of agribusiness, keeping indentured servants (lay brothers), living in unseemly security, and selling off God’s food crops to keep rich men pie-eyed on Scotch whisky.

 

Sticking like limpets, burrs are nature’s time bombs. So the songs. They became burrs of revolution: “How many times can a man turn his head, pretending ...? What have we done to the rain … ? Buddy, can you spare a dime ?” Suddenly, they detonated: “How many homeless people would fit into this huge palace?” “Why are we monks ruining the Earth to make people drunk?” And the all-time favourite, “What exactly is so wrong with girls, anyway?” Everything came under the hammer of our new-found fervour: the Christian bible, the monastic rules, silence – our vows, above all: obedience, chastity and poverty. Dylan-driven, I obsessed over a guitar. A monk has no money, and anyway a £100 guitar to sing about people living on £100 a year - what kind of poverty is that? Luckily our garbage dump sprouted a rich harvest of broken tables, ends of chapel floor,ng toilet seats (retired!). Sudden inspiration, luck by the truck load, et voila! – my faithful companion of the past 40 years, this beautiful guitar.

The rest of the story essentially belongs to her. First, she taught me something of the profound silences of Flamenco, the Cante Jondo, contemplation by any other name. Then she carried me abruptly out of the monastery to become 'another Dylan; only quieter' (lots quieter: early efforts had one listener gushing: “We mums loved the songs. Your voice was so gentle all the babies fell asleep.”[!!]); into Queen Elizabeth's castle at Balmoral (with a posse of bishops protesting Margaret Thatcher's nuclear weapons); to Los Angeles to help fight off Salvadoran death squads operating even there; and, finally, to Chile, to join Víctor Jara's family in reclaiming the stadium in which the great singer/songwriter had been tortured and killed.

And now, suddenly 70, I find myself writing from Nicaragua, surrounded by family and community, digging eco-drains in the barrio, completing my latest sure fire hit: ¨That Expletives-deleted Mobile!”. Mrs Thatcher is a horrid historical footnote, the US has a black president, and the oppressed countries of the Americas are uniting to challenge northern greed and to heal the planet with all its peoples. Re-membering, re-singing, the great songs of this wonderful journey, only half begun even yet: “What Have We Done to the Rain?”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “We Shall Overcome”,, “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita”.

It's not just the songs, of course. But they were – are - a vital part of any lasting movement to make justice happen. More than half the world's people read only with difficulty, if at all. They live through their ears, and, especially in struggle, through their hearts. For, at the last, soaring high above both the tragic and the trivial, music's poetry encapsulates our human greatness, the vision shining clear even in the worst of times. Martin Luther King's, “I have a dream”; Joe Hill's, “Don't mourn – organize!”; The World's, “We Shall Overcome!”

Gracias a la Vida: Thanks to life” was one of Violeta Parra's last songs. Amen to that. Waking with love in my heart and a song on my lips, how can I have been so fortunate? Poor Violeta was not so lucky; she died tragically, abandoned, hanging alone in her folklore tent. But she passed on her spirit and her guitar; to Victor Jara, above all, who went on to write some of the finest and most moving songs ever to come out of the struggle for peace, justice and beauty. He too died horribly, of course, his hands smashed, tortured and shot to death by Pinochet's men in a ghastly charade of Russian roulette. But not before he too had passed on the spirit.

 

 

In these last times, then, when we're finally beginning to learn that true independence, personal and of nations, comes only through interdependent shared commitment to our one, beautiful, exquisitely fragile planet, let the last word lie with him. Born of a peasant family and part Mapuche Indian, Victor loved nature as profoundly as he hated injustice. In the wonderful festival we had to reclaim the stadium where they murdered him and his companions, we sang together in the echoes of the surrounding silence: “Levantate y mira la montaña - Stand up and see the wonder of the mountain: source of the sun, the water and the wild wind.” Violeta and Víctor, Rosa Parkes, Gandhi, Arlen Sui and Pablo Neruda, they’re all still with us, singing …

 

Paul Baker Hernández

 

Originally from Britain, Paul is a musician, writer and organiser. He lives in a marginalized neighbourhood of Managua, Nicaragua, working on community eco-projects, writing cheeky songs about mobiles, dictators, even the sainted Starbucks, and coordinating Echoes of Silence, an international network of 'artists with broken fingernails'. For information, to support Echoes' of Silence work, and/or book presentations/events or tours, please copy http://echoesofsilence-ecosdelsilencio.pbworks.com to your browser or write: echoespaul@tortillaconsal.com – Thank you. Paul is on tour in the US march 2 – 24, 2010; and in the UK in September/October

 

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